OZ Cabbie Jan-Feb 2015
In case you have missed it, the NSW state election is only a month away. Although the Coalition Government led by the charismatic Michael Baird is considered a shoo-in I’m hedging my bets. With the conservatives recently losing government in both Victoria and Queensland after only one term and the popularity of Tony Abbott at a historical low, I wouldn’t totally discount Labor’s chance for scoring a hat-trick with NSW. But, there is at least one Liberal who is optimistic.
“2015 will be a better year for Australia, I have no doubt about that.” Treasurer Joe Hockey said in December.
And what will ensure that? All these exciting new disruptive technology companies that have come to town: Netfix, Airbnb and of course Uber.
“The jobs are in Uber”, he reportedly enthused at a cabinet meeting, after Uber’s Vice President for Spin, David Plouffe, who had dropped in on Oz for a visit, announced Uber would be creating 20,000 jobs here in 2015.
That the man who is responsible for the Australian economy is so desperate and gullible that he allows himself to be hoodwinked by a corporate spin-doctor from across the pond is truly frightening. More in For Treasurer Joe Hockey to fall for the spin of Uber’s Plouffe is truly frightening.
A freak event happened in Melbourne last month. Suddenly 270 UberX drivers were granted accreditation to drive a hire car. The Financial Review took this to mean that the Victorian Taxi Services Commission had “embraced” UberX. Uber said it welcomed the TSC’s progressive approach and TSC boss Graeme Samuel strenuously denied he had made any deal with Uber about ride-share. More in Samuel on the cusp of legalising UberX?.
As if threats to the taxi industry from so-called ‘ride-sharing’ weren’t enough, a growing competition, which has more or less gone under our radar, is car share. As we build more and more apartment blocks without or with limited on-site parking and more and more young people are going off wasting money on a car, car sharing has become a lucrative industry. Read Tim Hoy’s take on this fast-growing competitor in Get that warm and fuzzy feeling as a member of the sharing economy.
In an email goCatch last month announced to its passengers and drivers that from 1 February they would be turning off their phone support line. If they needed help with anything after that date they would have to contact the company by text or email and would get a reply also by text or email. Is that acceptable service from a taxi booking service? More in “Need help, send us an email or a text” - phone support by a human is so yesterday.
Recently I read that the booking app Hailo, developed by three London cabbies and which had taken the UK taxi market by storm and expanded to Europe and the US had lost £21 million in 2014 and was now selling or licencing its technology to international taxi networks.
I have also heard a rumour that Sydney taxi networks are planning to provide there drivers with an app similar to ingogo’s and goCatch’s that will enable passengers and drivers to communicate directly. Give up network control? Sounds far-fetched? Well, it’s either that or obsolescence. Have they been talking to Hailo? Nobody will say.
At a meeting in Melbourne where Davis Plouffe was speaking, a representative from Victorian Taxi Families, when he was taking questions from the floor, stood up and described Uber as “liars” and accused the company of not conducting criminal background checks on its drivers. Mr Plouffe responded by saying Uber background checks every driver and ensures every driver is accredited with the Victorian government. If that is true, there are only 270 UberX drivers in Melbourne.
Maybe Graeme Samuel will come clean about his dealings with Uber for the next issue of OZ Cabbie. Until then, keep on moving.